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Despite the recent trend toward touch screen phones such as the NEC N908 and the Apple iPhone, phones with actual buttons are not going away any time soon--tactile feedback is still king in the cell phone world. Handsets with a built-in QWERTY keyboard are especially desirable for many a texting fanatic, and the brand-new Samsung SCH-u740 for Verizon Wireless is one such example. Similar to Cingular's Samsung SGH-d307, the u740 features a cool, dual-flip design that lets you switch between portrait and landscape view for easy messaging. The SCH-u740 is a huge improvement over its predecessor in almost every way -- not only does it have much better navigation controls, the SCH-u740 also comes packed with a megapixel camera, a music player, and access to the full stable of Verizon Wireless multimedia services including V Cast Music and Video. A decent alternative to the LG enV (VX9900), the SCH-u740 is a solid multimedia offering for Verizon customers. It's currently available for $149.99 with a two-year service agreement.
Unlike the SGH-d307, the SCH-u740 is quite a handsome phone. Its wide yet slim body is a subtle metallic-champagne color, and simple black accents give it a sophisticated and stylish look. Though it's not nearly as skinny as the Motorola Razr (which is 0.5-inch thick) at 3.84x2.04x0.58 inches, the u740 is still thin enough to slip into your pants pocket with ease. It also has a nice heft when held in the hand, thanks to its 3.6-ounce weight, and it cradles nicely next to the ear when opened.
Located on the SCH-u740's front flap is a small yet bright 1.1-inch external display that shows the date, the time, signal and battery strength, and photo caller ID. We were impressed with its 65,000-color display, especially because we could use it as a camera viewfinder for self-portraits. When the music player is active, you can use the external screen to view the album art as well as the current track playing. In a nice touch, you can change the wallpaper or clock format of the external display if you wish. Above the screen and the Samsung logo is the camera lens, while touch-sensitive music player controls are underneath the display. Slightly reminiscent of the controls on the LG VX8600, the music player controls can only be used when the music player is on. We aren't fans of the touch-sensitive music controls, which required unlocking every time we want to change the track. It's possible to leave them unlocked, but this might lead to accidental track changes with a quick swipe of your finger.
The rest of the phone's exterior is pretty basic: The left spine is home to a Hold button to lock or unlock the aforementioned music player controls, a volume rocker, and the charger/accessory jack; the speakerphone key and a microSD card slot are on the right spine. We were disappointed that there wasn't a dedicated camera button on the phone's exterior, which meant we could only activate the camera with the phone open.
As we mentioned earlier, the u740 features the same dual-flip design as the SGH-d307. This innovative design lets you open the phone vertically like a traditional clamshell, or you could open the phone horizontally and rotate it so the orientation of the display changes to landscape mode. The hinge felt quite sturdy when opening and closing the phone in both directions. Speaking of the display, we were delighted to see a lovely 2.2-inch, 262,000-color LCD inside. Images were saturated with color, and navigating the phone's colorful and photorealistic menu was a delight. You can adjust the screen's contrast and backlight time, plus the style and the size of the phone's dialing fonts.
Thankfully, Samsung appears to have learned its mistake from the d307's quirky navigation controls. While the d307's navigation controls did double duty with the QWERTY keyboard, the u740's navigation controls are decidedly separate from the rest of the keypad. There are two soft keys underneath the display when viewed in portrait mode, and a third soft key on the lower-left corner is for use when viewing in landscape mode. The familiar circular navigation controls with a middle OK key is also present, and they double as shortcuts to four user-defined functions. Below the soft keys and the navigation controls are the Send and End/Power key, the camera/camcorder key, the Clear key, and the voice command key.
We were surprisingly pleased with the mini QWERTY keyboard and the button layout of the phone. A block of 12 keys at the top double as the number keypad, and they are colored grey to stand out against the black. There is a NumLock key next to the spacebar so you can still type out numbers and make calls when in landscape mode. All the keys were raised above the surface of the phone, and we found the keyboard to be spacious and tactile enough to type out text messages with ease. The backlight time of the keypad can also be adjusted.
Though u740's improved keyboard was notable by itself, it's the features that make the u740 really shine over its predecessor. The SGH-d307 lacked multimedia features, but the u740 ramps it up with a megapixel camera, a music player, and full access to Verizon's V Cast capabilities. And its phone offerings are pretty good as well. The u740 comes with an address book including room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and a note. You can also save contacts to a group and pair each contact with a photo for caller ID or one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, text and multimedia messaging, instant messaging (AOL, MSN, and Yahoo messengers are supported), e-mail, voice commands and dialing, a calculator, a calendar, an alarm clock, a world clock, a stop watch, a notepad, a speakerphone, a wireless web browser, and Bluetooth connectivity. There's also an optional Wireless Sync e-mail feature that lets you sync up with your business or personal e-mail addresses. Wireless Sync supports Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino, POP3, and IMAP e-mail systems. The Bluetooth technology on the u740 supports profiles for Vcard Push plus headset, hands-free operation, serial port, and dial-up networking.
The u740's EV-DO support comes in handy especially when it comes to accessing Verizon's multimedia broadband offerings like V Cast Music and V Cast Video. It's worth noting that you can only access the music player plus the V Cast services when the phone is in landscape mode. The music player and V Cast interface is similar to that of other Verizon phones, right down to the red-and-white navigation menus. You also have the option of purchasing and downloading other applications such as VZ Navigator, Chaperone Parent, and many more via Verizon's Get It Now service.
The 1.3-megapixel camera has a healthy array of settings, which include five different resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, 160x120, and a Picture ID setting), three quality settings (Fine, Normal, Economy), up to 4x zoom, color effects, white balance, light metering, flash, a self-timer of up to 10 seconds, auto save, preview mode, multishot, three "ready" sounds ("Say Cheese!", "Look here," and "1,2,3!") plus a silent option, and three shutter sounds also with a silent option. The camcorder has two recording modes: Clips meant for multimedia messages are limited to 15 seconds, but Normal mode lets you record for as long as the available memory permits. Of course, you always can use a microSD card for more space. The quality of the photos was acceptable; though the images appeared a little blurry, they weren't as pixilated as that of a VGA camera, and colors remained bright and bold. The video quality on the other hand was pretty shoddy, especially in low-light conditions.
Personalization options are plenty with the u740. Not only can you use the wide array of preloaded wallpapers and graphics, you can download more from Verizon's Get It Now service. The same goes for ringtones and alerts. The u740 doesn't come with any games, but you can download more BREW games from Verizon. We managed to download Pac-Man in a mere second, and playing it in the phone's landscape mode was quite fun.
We tested the dual-band Samsung SCH-u740 (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. We were impressed with the call quality, which was very good, and callers reported little to no static. The speakerphone quality was excellent as well; callers reported that we sounded loud and clear even though we placed the phone a couple feet away. The audio quality did sound a little metallic, and people still knew we were calling from a cell phone, but it wasn't a deal breaker. We managed to pair the SCH-u740 with the Technocel T50 Bluetooth headset without a problem, and call quality from the headset was quite good as well.
We downloaded music files via V Cast Music within seconds. Browsing the web was also quite speedy, and video streamed without buffering issues. The video quality was pretty mediocre, however, with a lot of pixilation that was especially noticeable in action shots such as sports video clips. On the other hand, music quality was very good. It sounded loud and clear from the phone's speakers and through a headset.
The Samsung SCH-u740 has a rated talk time of 3.5 hours and a rated standby time of 8.3 days. Our tests revealed an impressive talk time of 4 hours and 18 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the SCH-u740 has a digital SAR rating of 0.68 watts per kilogram.